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Private Poker Games; Worth The Risk?

by Roy Winston |  Published: Oct 06, '09

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For those of you who sent the many positive comments about how the world should be non-smoking; thanks, for the others who were outraged by the idea of banning smoking; too bad, the time is coming.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about what you should consider when you are invited to house games. What I am calling a house game is just that, a private game at someone’s house or business. First of all, you should be aware of the local laws. In many places it is against the law to play for money in a private game. Some states allow it if the house is not taking a rake, but many do not. Also keep in mind that if your game is raided, you are at risk to lose all money that is with you, as well as your freedom, at least for a little while. Many games have gone to a no money policy, where settlement is either by check, or next day with cash. I am not commenting on the legal or moral implications of this method, that is something for you to work out, however, when you settle by check or in the future, it allows for abuse. Specifically, if someone gets stuck deep and keeps taking more credit, they can hit a point where they decide not to pay, and give up on that game. Depending on the amount, there may be consequences and of once games find out you don’t pay, good luck getting any additional credit.

I know of several players, who after sizeable wins in reputable games are slow paid. Meaning it took a long time and many aggravating phone calls. You will often here the phrase “the game is guaranteed.” What they are saying is that those running the game guarantee payment. This can be reality or fantasy, and can be justification for a larger rake or house drop. What I mean is that they say they guarantee the money, but then when someone stiffs them, which will eventually happen, they may or may not come through. A guarantee is only as good as those providing it. I wonder how the extended warrantees are doing at Circuit City?

The rake or house take from a private game must also be looked at. When friends get together, often times everyone kicks in some fixed amount to cover food and drink, which might be pizza and beer, or steaks and lobster from The Palm. In some of the big games in NY and LA they order food from the most expensive restaurants, have great wine and drinks, and even massage therapists to help you relax. All of this is included, but just like any “all-inclusive” activity; you wind up paying one way or another. I have seen rakes as big as 5% uncapped. What this means is that from Every Pot the house is taking 5% with no limit. So if there is a 40k pot, which is not uncommon in big games, the house is taking a whopping $2,000. If you are getting a conservative 30 hands per hour with an average pot size of even $2,000, that equates to a $3,000 per hour house drop. So in a 10-hour game they are taking $30,000 out of the game. Now if you factor in 9 players each eating expensive food, and having massages, and even a hotel suite rental for the night, that still leaves a nice profit. On occasion a game is so juicy that a high house take is overcomable, because most of the players are so bad. Another common rake is a percentage with a cap, which can help. So if the rake were 5% with a $300 cap per hand for example, then if there is a monster pot of say $80,000, then you would pay the $300 instead of $4,000 for that hand. Whatever the rake is you should go in with your eyes wide open so you know what you are paying. In general, a 5% rake without a low cap can be tough to overcome.

Another thing I always consider is the safety of the game. Lots of poker games have been robbed over the years, and it’s always a risk. Bobby Hoff, who is one of the original Texas gamblers, and can be found at the Commerce on a daily basis, told me a story about a game being robbed that is the best I’ve ever heard. Now I wont do it justice, he is a great storyteller, but here goes. One of the regulars in a big game that pretty much always lost all of his money and who was also a well-known criminal, towards the end of a long night of play and after yet another big loss, pulls out a gun and takes all the money on the table. As he is leaving, another regular who was usually one of the big winners asked him if he would be back to play the next week. Without a moments hesitation he answered “sure, why not.” I love this story, he was such a fish that they didn’t even care that he robbed them, as long as he returned on a regular basis. I am not sure this would fly in most games today, but hey, whatever works.

So keep in mind that if you are robbed in a private game, they are taking all your money, watch, wallet, cell phone and anything else of value. I have had several players tell me that they were tied up and had guns stuck in their faces. There was that robbery of an underground poker club in NY where a small stakes player, whom if my memory serves me, was a schoolteacher, was shot and killed, when a shotgun was dropped, and accidently discharged.
Even in a reputable casino there are risks. I remember a story from last year at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, where two players got into a disagreement about a seat in a low stakes limit holdem game, one player ultimately stabbed the other in the neck and killed him. (here is a link to the story: http://www.pokernews.com/news/2008/04/conflicting-reports-taj-poker-stabbing.htm I guess that guy has a reserved seat in a regular prison game now.

So, buyers beware, playing in an illegal game carries risk. Risk of getting arrested, not paid, paying a huge house rake, robbed, and on a rare occasion death, but you could be run over crossing the street or abducted by aliens and subjected to the dreaded rectal probe. Why do aliens always have to use the rectal probe, and why does it always seem to be on residents of a mobile home park recently hit by a tornado? I always loved the Jeff Foxworthy “you might be a redneck” lines such as “If you’ve been on TV describing what the tornado was like as it came through your mobile home more than one time, you might be a redneck.” But I digress. Just like playing a hand, weigh the variables and make a determination on your best course of action.

Roy Winston finished 16th in 2007 Card Player, Player of the Year race. He won the WPT Borgata Poker Open and finished the year with well over $2 million in tournament poker winnings. Roy plays online exclusively at Full Tilt. For more information on Roy Winston, you can visit his website: www.oraclepoker.net or send an email to: winstonpoker@yahoo.com with your questions or comments. The contents presented herein on this blog are purely the opinions of Roy Winston, and are not intended to reflect or promote the opinions of any other person, group, or entity. If you like what I write than thanks for reading, and if not well, thanks anyway.

 
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of CardPlayer.com.
 

Comments

reverendwright
12 years ago

The day is coming when internet poker will be banned for good.I know alot of people are happy that day is coming.It's amazing how people want other peoples rights taken away but they don't want theirs.

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

The day will never come when smoking will be banned.Keep trying to control peoples lifes roy.Try to take my cigarettes away.You are a hypocrate.

 
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MoosPlayer
12 years ago

Leaves mys lifes alone, you hypocrates.

 
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bingobars
12 years ago

im quitting when someone get analrapped at a P.G.

Godd Blug tho....

 
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Kumala
12 years ago

Great blog Roy!!! For those haters, all Roy is saying is there is risk to everything, from second hand smoke to a semi-bluff flush draws. We all take risk everyday, including getting in the shower, where you could fall and die from a head wound. The man is just stating the obvious; freedom comes with sacrifice, and all should be proud you have that choice; for it was not granted without blood. Anyway, I truly enjoy your blog Roy, and a shout out for the friendly spat between you and DN!!!!!!

 
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mjwj
12 years ago

The no-smoking era is upon us, our kids will learn to live without it and slowly but surely it will disappear. The handwriting is on the wall when France, Italy, Netherlands have all taken up no- smoking bans in their bar and restauants. You can't stop this movement. By the way I was at that club where the schoolteacher ( Frank) was killed due to the stupidity of those robbers whodropped the shotgun. B T W it wasn't the shotgun blast that killed him but the handgun the robber was holding as he picked up the shotgun. It was an inside job as most of these robberies are. I now consider the security of a clubparamount whe I play there.

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

mjwj,the kids will learn to live with it?who do you think you are you asshole.kumala,i hope both your freedoms get taken away from you.why dont we ban religion,nothing in history has killed more people then religion you 2 idiots.

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

stalin and hitler would be proud of you 3 assholes

 
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mjwj
12 years ago

You're a blind man with an anger issue. You couldn't see the forest from the trees if you bumped into it.
I'm a avid cigar smoker who doesn't want his right to smoke taken away but it doesn't prevnt me from seeing the reality of the smoking issue. You're just a pent up angry twit who is holding on to the past and thinks progress is an attack on his freedom.
Grow up - get a life , get a hobby and get laid. it would do you wonders.

 
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mjwj
12 years ago

To equate freedom with the smoking issue is idiotic. You have a pole up your ass that is stuck so deep even a well digger couldn't remove it

 
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mjwj
12 years ago

To equate this with Stalin and Hitler shows the level of mediocrity that you would stoop to - to make a point, how can anyone take you seriously when the only response you have to an issue is personal attacks and namecalling. I repeat, get a life , get a hobby, get laid, buy a brain

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

mjwj.better believe im mad when morons like you want peoples freedoms taken away.why dont we meet and we will se what a twit i am.living in the past?you call the govt.telling someone they cant smoke in their own buliding progress?you have your head shoved up your ass.I know more about history then you ever could.

 
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seamarfan269
12 years ago

What's a "hypograte"??? Nuff Said.

 
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seamarfan269
12 years ago

Or is it "hynocrate"???

 
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seamarfan269
12 years ago

"hypocrame"?

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

Im a jerk,asshole,and a idiot for wanting to be able to smoke in MY BAR.Fuck all of you assholes.

 
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mjwj
12 years ago

it figures that you want to settle issues with "lets meet"kind of bullshit - the intellectually weak will always solve problems with violence.
Once again - I never said I was a proponent for banning smoking, I do believe in an individuals right to decide for himself and I actually spoke in front of the NYC city council many years ago opposing the ban on smoking in Restaurants and Bars. If you read what I said in my first comment, its that I think its inevitable that smoking will be further banned in more locations. Naturally you can't read so its not surprising that you started to name call and threaten. Learn to read and then you won't be such a bundle of nerve. This is my last response to you- get a life,learn to read get laid

 
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JohnnyOnTheSpot
12 years ago

Lol, Roy, you've carried over the non-smoking debate full-force in this blog entry. :)

Controversial blog posts are the best. You get to see who all of the crazies are who troll the CP.com site. (I'm not saying who I think the crazies are.)

Thanks for being willing to be volatile, Roy. Whether or not I agree with you, I like bloggers who don't censor themselves and aren't afraid to say whatever they want.

 
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RoyWinston
12 years ago

I appreciate all the responses whether or not you agree with me, that's the beauty of this country, the ability to have your own point of you. mjwj I appreciate the firearm correction, must of been a terrible situation, glad you weren't hurt.

For those of you who made the comparison to Hitler/Stalin you need to learn both history and what freedom really means. The right to present your point of view and work for those things, as long as you don't hurt, or advocate hurting others is what it's about.

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

More people die in car accidents from drunk drivers every year then people die from second hand smoke.Why not ban alcohol?

 
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seamarfan269
12 years ago

@Richenough seamarfan269 = idiot, if idiot = bored and having a "unique" sense of humor! :-) Nuff Said.

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

BMPEK.The name i use on here is a name of someone i hate rev idiot wright.obama is a socilaist piece of s--t.You are 100 percent right he is trying to take our freedoms away.He will go down as the worst presidnt ever.

 
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seamarfan269
12 years ago

Dear R.W. and BMPEK. Your boy just won the Nobel Peace Prize and i read that nominations were due in only 2 weeks after he took office. Hmmm. Nuff Said (probably not nuff said this time).

 
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seamarfan269
12 years ago

ONE MORE THING PLEASE!! The term "boy" used above was in no way, shape, or form meant to be used as a derogatory, inflammatory, or insensitive description of the leader of our great country. I just didn't re-read my post prior to hitting "POST" and only read it after it was too late to change. Apologies to anybody offended. :(

 
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mjwj
12 years ago

----"More people die in car accidents from drunk drivers every year then people die from second hand smoke.Why not ban alcohol?"----
reverendwright

I can't help it, I promised myself that I wouldn't bother with him (reverendwright) any longer but idiotic statements like that should not go unanswered.
Last I heard driving and drinking is against the law in all states.

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

mjwj.Your that much of a idiot that you don't understand my point?Last i heard smoking cigarettes was legal?Roy wants to ban smoking in places that it's legal to smoke.Why?Because he says it kills people.Well people get killed by drunks and by cars so why not ban drinking and cars you IDIOT.The reason it wont be is because people like roy like to drink and they like to drive.Im not saying roy drinks and drives,im sure he is smart enough not to.You still don't understand the point im making our are you that stupid?

 
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reverendwright
12 years ago

And for all you english majors i know it's or not our.

 
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seamarfan269
12 years ago

You shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction. lol. Nuff Said.

 
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